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NEW YORK — The New York Jets released cornerback Antonio Cromartie on Sunday, a decision that saves the team millions of dollars under its salary cap.
Cromartie was entering the final year of his four-year deal and was scheduled to cost the Jets' cap $14.98 million this season — including a $5 million roster bonus that would kick in later this month. There's a chance the Jets could bring back Cromartie at a lesser salary, unless the two-time Pro Bowl selection chooses to explore free agency.
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The 29-year-old Cromartie is coming off perhaps his worst season as he struggled with a hip ailment for most of the year while continuing to play as the Jets' No. 1 cornerback.
"I just had a bad year," he said during an interview with NBC Sports Network in January. "That falls heavily on me and no one else."
New York could be in the market for a cornerback if the Jets don't re-sign Cromartie because they have just Dee Milliner, the team's top pick last year who struggled through an up-and-down season, and Kyle Wilson, their 2010 first-rounder who has played in more of a nickel back role.
Cromartie has said a few times that he would prefer to retire as a member of the Jets and expressed excitement about the team keeping coach Rex Ryan around for 2014. Whether he's a part of Ryan's secondary next season remains to be seen.
Ryan called Cromartie "one of the finest athletes I've ever coached."
"He was willing to contribute wherever the team needed him to win games," Ryan said, adding: "He has a passion and enthusiasm for the game and I wish him and his family the best."
Cromartie's right hip bothered him at times throughout the season after he reinjured it in Week 2 of the preseason. The hip issues stem from a 2008 injury in which he actually played through a dislocated hip while with the San Diego Chargers.
Cromartie has had varying degrees of pain the last few years related to the hip, but hadn't felt sharp pains until late in the season. It appeared at times to have sapped some of Cromartie's speed, with the cornerback getting beat on some plays he normally wouldn't have in the past.
When Darrelle Revis was traded to Tampa Bay last April, Cromartie stepped in as the team's No. 1 cornerback — a role in which he played well when Revis was lost early in the 2012 season with a knee injury.
He spent his first four seasons with the Chargers and was traded to the Jets in March 2010 for a draft pick. Cromartie became a free agent after that season, but after they unsuccessfully flirted with Nnamdi Asomugha, the Jets re-signed him to a four-year, $32 million deal.